I came home last night to an acceptance letter — to Columbia University’s School of Journalism. And I was floored.
I felt high on the fumes of giddy excitement, but also just…strange. I didn’t go the straight arrow route of trying to become a journalist. I was always a a poet, a dreamy kid who sort of floated through life. I barely knew what was going on outside of my head.
But at some point along the path of my 20s, I changed — dramatically. I am still a poet and a fiction writer, but I am now fascinated by journalism, in love with reporting, and feel that, if done well and with deep and real care, journalism can affect the course of the human story . It doesn’t let us ignore others’ narratives to simplify our own. It challenges not just the way we think, but the way we live. It makes what’s going on thousands of miles away more urgent than the difficulties of our day. I dig it. (And in terms of creative writing, it gives you worlds more to write about that the halls of MFA academia ever will.)
So after freelancing for a year, I decided to apply to Columbia, thinking it was a real long shot, thinking the liberal elite, “best-j-school-around” would see that I was smart and had potential, but that I just wasn’t the right “fit,” that I hadn’t done all the right things — run a school newspaper, intern somewhere important, devote the entire trajectory of my life from the age of 6 to journalism. I’m a waitress. I don’t own a car or television. I can’t seem to get the money together to get a decent haircut. I grew up in a family living on the fringe, moving from eviction letter to eviction letter. I live more responsibly than that now, but I am still on that fringe. I’m used to it.
But I am also tired of it. Everyday I wake up dreading having to go the restaurant. I am constantly feeling like I’d give anything for more time to write — and report.
So I applied to Columbia on a lark.
I am thrilled. Very thrilled. I know I want this. But I’m also conflicted. Is it worth it to accrue more debt? Is it silly to pursue journalism right now, given the state of things? Will this screw any future of more travel, or will it open up more opportunities? Should I just keep freelancing and waitressing until something breaks for me? I used to jump into things unthinkingly when I was younger. Let me tell you, I’m a lot more cautious these days. Even afraid.
I’m largely self-taught, so the idea of learning from a veteran New York Times reporter is inspiring. The dream of getting to spend the majority of my time writing and reporting is incredible, unfathomable. But more than anything, Columbia just seems like a door-opener — to a world I’ve always only peered into. From a huge distance. Hell, I don’t even live on the outskirts.
I’m making no decisions until I see that aid letter in April. But I’m still gonna celebrate!
What does everyone think? Please weigh in!